Buyer beware: how to avoid a car that’s a repairable write off


You may know that any car that has been damaged so that the cost of repairs exceeds its insured value is known as a write off.

Sometimes these cars can be totally unrepairable, which is called a statutory write off – and they may not be re-registered and are sold for scrap and parts.

Other write offs may still technically be repairable, but it is cost prohibitive for the insurance companies to pursue the repairs – so what happens to these vehicles?

Not surprisingly, they end up back in circulation. And it won’t surprise you to learn that not everyone is honest about their cars’ history.

What are the rules on repairable write offs where you live?

Since 2011 in New South Wales, it’s no longer possible to register a so-called repairable write off, a measure designed to put a stop to unsafe and stolen vehicles getting on the state’s roads. But elsewhere around the country the trade in repairable write offs continues.

You should remember that any car that has been written off by an insurance company has sustained significant damage and even if it is repaired, the vehicle’s safety could be seriously compromised. And remember, the damage might not even be something you can see. Flood damaged cars may appear to be in excellent condition, but extensive damage can be done to the car’s advanced systems that could result in the failure of key safety systems.

So should you consider a repairable write off as a second-hand car?

Although technically speaking, a repairable write off which has been repaired to a high standard can be an acceptable vehicle, you certainly should be factoring that into the price you’re willing to pay, and if you live in NSW, you will be unlikely to be able to register the car in your home state.

One of the key steps you should take no matter where you live when you’re buying a second-hand car is to check the written off vehicle register (WOVR) in your state or territory. Any car 15 years or less which has been written off – repairable or statutory – will be on this register. Accessing this information is a must if you want to be armed with all the information you need to make a good decision on a used car.

That’s one of key benefits that HelloCars provides when buying a used car – all our vehicles must pass an industry leading 230-point check which is published on our site and you can be guaranteed that we don’t sell repairable write offs or stolen cars.

What’s the rule in your state or territory?

Can you re-register a repairable write off?  
ACT Yes – must pass inspection
QLD Yes – must pass inspection
NT Yes – must pass inspection
SA Yes – must pass inspection



Yes – must pass inspection

Yes – must pass inspection

Yes – must pass inspection

 Paul Higgins is Director of HelloCars.